Stanford Up, USC Down in Latest CWPA Top-25 Women’s Water Polo Poll

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Georgia Phillips backstopped UCLA to victory in the 2020 Triton Invite, toppling USC from the top of the polls. Photo Courtesy: Minette Rubin

There are two major women’s water polo tournaments in February; the Triton Invitational, hosted by UC San Diego, and the Barbara Kalbus Invitational on the UC Irvine campus. Both provide opportunities for teams to face strong non-conference rivals and thereby gauge their prospects for regular and post-season play in their respective conferences.

These tournaments also create havoc in national rankings, as is evidenced by the latest Collegiate Water Polo Association’s Top-25 varsity poll. Due to a 7-5 loss to their arch-rivals, the Bruins of UCLA, in the final of the Triton Invite last Sunday, USC dropped from first to fourth in the latest CWPA poll, making Stanford the new number one.

For now; in a week the Kalbus Invite will kick off, and all of the nation’s top-ten teams will participate, including the Cardinal, who skipped the trip to La Jolla for UCSD’s tournament. Meaning volatility ahead for the best women’s water polo squads.

The other big change in the poll is the continued rise of Indiana; the Hoosiers have gone from tied for 23rd in the preseason to tied for 15th this week.

#1 Stanford University (7-0); the Cardinal was off last weekend. They rise to the top due to the Trojans’ loss; it’s clear that the top three in the MPSF could be trading places all season—especially in two weeks, when all the top teams, including Stanford, gather for the Barbara Kalbus Invitational. Head Coach John Tanner will keep his athletes focused; they have matches against Pacific and Fresno State on Saturday at the Aggie Classic in Davis.

January 27, 2019; Spieker Aquatics Center, Berkeley, CA, USA; Womens Water Polo:Cal Cup : California Golden Bears vs UCLA Bruins Exhibition Game; UCLA Attacker Maddie Musselman guarded by California Attacker Georgia Bogle Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne

Maddie Musselman. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

#2 UCLA (14-1); a big win in the Triton Invitational signals that a young Bruin squad missing Maddie Musselman will be able to hold its own this season against the nation’s top squads. The win over the Trojans in the Triton final was Head Coach Adam Wright’s first-ever (on the women’s side) against arch-rival USC. UCLA will take this weekend off to prep for a match in two weeks against Pacific.

[With 7-5 Win over Rival Trojans, Bruins Capture 2020 Triton Women’s Water Polo Invite]

#3 Hawai’i (8-0); the Rainbow Wahine were off last weekend; next up for Head Coach Maureen Cole’s team is the Kalbus Invite in two weeks. Things look good for Hawai’i; Alba Bonamusa Boix (20 goals, 14 assists) and Szonja Kuna (20 goals, 8 steals) lead the squad on offense, while goalies Bridget Layburn and Molly DiLalla both have goals against averages under five.

#4 USC (6-1); the Trojans had a remarkable streak snapped in La Jolla on Sunday. They had won six straight Triton Invitational titles, and hadn’t lost a match at this event in two decades (third place in 2000). They also took a 13-year hiatus from this event (2000-13); not that it matters now, having been stuffed by a Bruin defense that held the Trojans to their lowest goal total since a 5-4 win over Stanford in the 2018 NCAA tournament final. They welcome UC Irvine to Uytengsu this Saturday, another tough early-season match—which is also USC’s home opener.

#5 Arizona State (9-2); in La Jolla, the Sun Devils showed that they will be a force to be contended with in 2020, knocking off host UCSD 13-8 to take third place at the Triton Invitational. That was after a signature win over a talented UC Irvine squad, when Borbala Kekesi hit the winner to allow ASU to claim a comeback win. The only blemish on the weekend: an 11-8 loss to UCLA.  Devils playing better than Head Coach Todd Clapper expected so early in the season. Now, there’s a break before a trip to Irvine for the Kalbus Invite.

#6 UC Irvine (9-3); Anteater Head Coach Dan Klatt was searching for answers after his team could not hold off the Sun Devils and had to settle for fifth place at the Triton Invite, handily beating UC Santa Barbara. Given that UCI had only previously lost to Stanford and Cal, the ASU loss looks a bit like an anomaly. What may be more indicative of the potential of Klatt’s team will be a trip this Saturday to Los Angeles for a match with a USC program looking to make a statement. The Trojans have won the last 29 meetings, dating back to 1996.

[2020 Women’s Water Polo Triton Invite Report: Arizona State Tops Host UCSD for Third]

#7 Cal-Berkeley (7-4); the Golden Bears did not make the trip south and got pushed down a spot by the leaping Sun Devils. A road match this coming Saturday against UC Davis will be a warm up for the Kalbus Invite. Cassidy Ball leads the MPSF with 83 saves—not necessarily a welcome statistic, as she’s faced 164 shots in 11 games.

#8 UC San Diego (7-3); the host Tritons fell twice on the final day of their own tournament, including a five-goal loss to ASU. The result was a fourth-place finish on Sunday—the best ever-finish by UCSD in the Triton Invitational since winning the title in 1995. Highlight of the weekend was a strong performance against UC Santa Barbara.  Up next are matches on the road against Claremont-Mudd-Scrips and Pomona-Pitzer.

#9 UC Santa Barbara (8-5); a loss to UC Irvine in the fifth-place match of the Triton Invite represents a mini-slump for the Gauchos, which have lost three of their last five, including a loss to host UCSD last Saturday. A week off before the Kalbus Invite means that Head Coach Serela Kay gets to regroup for a rematch against the Tritons in a week at Irvine.

#10 Michigan (5-6); unlike last year, the Wolverines skipped the trip to San Diego to rest up for the Kalbus tournament. Critical for Head Coach Marcelo Leonardi is the play of the Ritner sisters. Emily has 11 goals and 10 assists—good for second on the squad—while Heidi has 78 saves after being pelted by 162 shots.

#11 Long Beach State (7-2); the 49ers went 2-2 in San Diego, including a 10-9 win over Indiana, good for seventh place at the Triton Invitational. Next up is host UC Irvine in the opening day of play at the Kalbus Invite.

#12 Fresno State (3-6); a convincing win last week over cross-town rival, the Firebirds of Fresno Pacific, gives Head Coach Natalie Benson’s team a boost going into the Aggie Invite this week in Davis. They’re going to need it; they open this Friday against new #1 Stanford, then play Pacific and host UC Davis.

#13 San Jose State (3-7); a road match Saturday against UC Davis will give the Spartans a chance to snap a four-match losing streak. It’s a good test for Beth Harberts’ team—especially as they prepare to join the top squads that will be competing at the Kalbus Invite.

#14 UC Davis (6-5); the Aggie Invite—with five teams traveling to Davis for seven games this weekend—fills in the gap between major tournaments in La Jolla and Irvine. UC Davis will compete in four of those matches, playing Cal, San Jose State, Fresno State and Pacific. This is a week after a split of four games at the Triton Invite, where the Aggies beat Pomona-Pitzer and CSUN but was upset by Indiana and Loyola Marymount.

February 2, 2019; Avery Aquatic Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA; Collegiate Women's Water Polo: Stanford Invitational: Indiana University Hoosiers vs Stanford University Cardinals; Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne

Indiana’s Taylor Dodson. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

#15 (T) Indiana (3-5); the Hoosiers may have a losing record, but they have proven to be one of the surprises of the young season, with signature wins over Pacific last month and UC Davis last weekend. Still, it was a 1-3 weekend for Head Coach Taylor Dodson’s team; they’ll have a much easier time of it this weekend as they host the Indiana Classic. Four teams come to Bloomington—all lower ranked than the Hoosiers—and the home team plays three of them: Cal Baptist, St. Francis University and Villanova.

#15 (T) Loyola Marymount (6-4); it was an excellent weekend for the Lions; they went 3-1 in La Jolla to take ninth at the Triton Invite with an upset win over UC Davis and a victory over GCC rival San Diego State. Kelsey Snelgar, who transferred from St. Francis Brooklyn, has be a welcome addition for LMU.

#17 Wagner (7-4); with big wins last weekend over host Bucknell and Harvard—the win against the Crimson avenged an earlier one-goal loss to the Crimson—the Seahawks swept all four games in Lewisburg. On tap this weekend for the Northeast’s highest ranked squad: host Princeton, George Washington and another rematch with Harvard.

[East Coast Women’s Water Polo Report: 2020 Bruno Classic Select Quotes]

#18 (T) Pacific (2-4); after a loss to Cal ran their losing streak to three, the Tigers travel north to Davis for matches against Stanford, Fresno State and host UC Davis. Next weekend they open the Kalbus tournament against UCLA. It’s not getting any easier for Pacific.

#18 (T) Harvard (7-1); the Crimson have faced only one ranked opponent—Wagner—so far this season and have split the two games with them. This weekend has Head Coach Ted Minnis’ team traveling to New Jersey for matches against San Diego State, St. Francis Brooklyn, and a rubber game with the Seahawks.

#20 California State Northridge (8-4); the Matadors split at La Jolla, with wins over Santa Clara and San Diego State and losses to Arizona State and UC Davis. This weekend they face DIII programs Whittier and Redlands.

#21 Princeton (2-2); a busy weekend awaits the Tigers at home, with matches against Wagner, San Diego State and surprising newcomer Long Island University. The Sharks are 2-6, but four of those losses have been by two goals or less, including two overtime losses last Sunday at the Bucknell Invitational.

#22 San Diego State (2-4); It’s an even year (2020) so the Aztecs take their trip East for four matches at Princeton, including Harvard, Princeton, LIU and St. Francis Brooklyn.  (In odd years they go west to Hawaii) The match with the Terriers represents a homecoming of sorts for SDSU Head Coach Carin Crawford; she’ll be facing her former player Alana Burgess, who now helms St. Francis. Aztecs last beat Princeton in 2013 season, a steak of six. San Diego State is 6-0 all time vs Harvard.

#23 Bucknell (6-1); Ally Furano stayed hot at home, picking up 13 goals in three matches—two wins—at the Bucknell Invitational. The junior from Connecticut now has 35 on the season and is on pace to exceed last year’s total of 135. This weekend it’s four matches in Mercyhurst: the host Lakers, Gannon, McKendree and a rematch with a tough Salem squad.

#24 Marist (3-10); after criss-crossing the country for competition—including out to La Jolla for the Triton Invite—this week the Red Foxes will take a well-deserved rest. Next weekend they host MAAC foes LIU and Wagner in the opening weekend of conference play.

#25 California Baptist (4-2); a trip to Bloomington for the Indiana Classic will give the Lancers three competitive matches against non-California opponents. The highlight of their weekend will be a game against the host Hoosiers.

With Bill Cohn